The men drugged her before they burned her alive.
More than a dozen members of an “honor council” near the Pakistani towns of Makol and Dunga Gali, outside of Abbottabad, have been arrested for immolating a 16-year-old girl, according to a local police chief.
Her supposed crime: helping a friend elope, which the men allegedly said had done irreparable harm to their village’s reputation.
The group of men, described as a jirga or local tribal council by police, detained the girl, her mother, and her brother, according to police chief Saeed Wazir. The latter two allegedly consented to the punishment: burning the girl, named in some reports as Ambreen or Haleema, in the van used by the couple to elope.
“The jirga members… decided to punish the girl in a novel way so no one in future can dare to marry without consent of their parents and give a bad name to the village,” Wazir told NBC. “They tied her hands with the seats and then poured [gasoline] on her and the vehicle and set it on fire.”
The case was popularized in part by Abdullah Khan of the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, who posted an account of the murder on Facebook and tweeted an image of the girl’s body. He is originally from that same area, he said.
“This is for the first time that I reluctantly associate myself with my own village,” Khan wrote, adding that Makol has frequent killings and a lot of rivalry. “When I came to know about this incident I was sure that it was work of young gangs of boys who have become a trademark of our village.”
Locals had stumbled across several burning vans in the early morning of April 29, and found the body of a girl in the backseat of one of them, Khan wrote. Despite announcing the findings from loudspeakers at the mosque, no one came forward with details of the killing.
Khan’s photo of the burnt body went viral, and the case was picked up by local media, police, and even a member of the Provincial Assembly. The girl turned out to be Amreen, daughter of a laborer named Riasat from Makol Payeen.
“She was not mentally fully fit and was under some sort of spiritual treatment,” Khan wrote. “Police and everybody was clueless [about] why she was burnt. Killing was enough if someone wanted to shut her up. It looked like kidnapping for rape and then killing to remain undetected.”
But instead, Khan said, police wound up questioning the mother, whose behavior after the murder was suspicious.
Police say the girl’s mother and brother assented to the brutal punishment, while Khan says she was forced to give up her daughter, not knowing that she would be killed, to members of the eloped friend’s clan.
The term jirga, Khan told The Daily Beast, can just mean “a mediator, and that can be even one person” in that region. It doesn’t have to be a formal body, as suggested in many news reports.
“Love marriage is quite frequent in our village and jirgas always helped in resolving disputes,” he added.
Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer who works with Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, said such killings were frequently “a means to assert dominance.” Often, women are sentenced to death by their own family members, and other family members forgive the murderers.
“Here it was a decision that was made by a collective,” Ijaz told The Daily Beast by phone from Lahore. “And it highlights another problem: the existence of parajudicial systems.
“The state has to criminalize it, but also it has to be viewed as a serious, heinous crime by the population at large,” he said.